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Sullivan v. Cummins Filtration-Lake Mills

Court of Appeals of Iowa

March 12, 2014

SUSAN ANN SULLIVAN, Petitioner-Appellant,
v.
CUMMINS FILTRATION-LAKE MILLS, a/k/a CUMMINS, INC., f/k/a FLEETGUARD, INC., and SECOND INJURY FUND OF IOWA, Respondents-Appellees

Editorial Note:

This decision is published in table format in the North Western Reporter.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Winnebago County, Rustin Davenport, Judge. Susan Ann Sullivan appeals the district court ruling of her petition for judicial review.

Mark S. Soldat of Soldat & Parrish-Sams, P.L.C., West Des Moines, for appellant.

Richard G. Book of Huber, Book, Cortese & Lanz, P.L.L.C., West Des Moines, for appellee Cummins Filtration-Lake Mills.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Julie Burger and Jennifer York, Assistant Attorneys General, Special Litigation, Des Moines, for appellee Second Injury Fund of Iowa.

Heard by Potterfield, P.J., and Doyle and Bower, JJ.

OPINION

BOWER, J.

Susan Ann Sullivan appeals the district court ruling of her petition for judicial review. Sullivan claims the workers' compensation commissioner misapplied the Iowa successive-disability statute, and did not properly summarize the evidence and explain the agency's decision-making process. Sullivan also claims the commissioner erred by denying her application for alternative medical care. We find the successive-disability statute is inapplicable as Sullivan failed to prove a permanent partial disability and as a result there is no successive disability under the statute. We also find the commissioner's findings of fact and conclusions of law were sufficiently separated to allow us to reconstruct the commissioner's reasoning on appellate review. Because we find there is no disability, an award of alternative medical care is not available. We affirm.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings

Susan Ann Sullivan (Sullivan) is a former employee of Cummins Filtration[1] (Cummins) where she worked on various production lines for several years. During Sullivan's employment with Cummins, she suffered a number of injuries and physical ailments.[2] Only the two petitions Sullivan filed with the workers' compensation commissioner on June 11, 2009, are before us for review. A discussion of Sullivan's prior medical and injury history is necessary to fully understand this dispute.

Sullivan sustained her first injury when she caught her right hand in a crimping machine on January 14, 1999. She was treated by Dr. Ciota who assessed a five percent permanent impairment to the whole body. Sullivan entered into a settlement that was approved by the commissioner establishing a twenty-two percent permanent partial disability in her right hand. Upon returning to work, Sullivan was symptom free.

Sullivan began experiencing swelling and pain in her hands in late 2001. The condition was reported to her supervisor on February 11, 2002. Sullivan engaged in many treatments with several doctors but continued to have symptoms. Sullivan and Cummins entered into a settlement regarding the February 11, 2002, injury that was approved by the commissioner on October 27, 2005. The settlement states Sullivan suffered a 16.068 percent permanent partial disability to her right arm.[3] Following the settlement, Sullivan returned to work with restrictions, which Cummins accommodated.[4]

There are two stipulated injuries that are presented on appeal. The first was reported to Cummins on August 17, 2007, after Sullivan noticed her hands were sore, swollen, numb, and tingling after she finished working the previous day. She was given additional restrictions and returned to appropriate work. One week later, she reported minor tingling and stated her hands were improving. She was referred to Dr. Mixdorf who diagnosed bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome. Dr. Mixdorf determined the carpal tunnel syndrome was probably work related. Sullivan was later transferred to Dr. Ciota who performed carpel tunnel release surgery on each arm. During a follow-up appointment shortly after the surgeries, Dr. Ciota found Sullivan to be " doing really well" and agreed she could return to work needing ...


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